Feeds

US sinks $0.5bn into electromagnetic aircraft-throwers

Great idea for new Brit carriers - if we get any

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Who can save the carriers? Robert Peston, perhaps

Thus we have seen recently a last-ditch effort by persons unnamed among the companies building the carriers to save their lucrative contract. Robert Peston of the BBC has found himself in possession of leaked information revealing the surge in projected cost for the ships. The info would have come out soon anyway, but normally it would have been part of a large government data dump on the eve of Parliament breaking up for the summer recess.

This way the allied shipbuilding and defence firms get to put the blame for the cost increases on the government in advance and highlight the prospect of job losses and industrial misery right from the start, while politicians are still at work and the media are still paying attention.

This might still seem like a foolish move by the contractors, as it could lead exasperated politicians to cancel the ships right away. But Gordon Brown can't do that - he's got little enough chance at the election anyway without forcing thousands of voters in his own political strongholds onto the dole.

Furthermore, Quentin Davies - the current kit minister - has recently been manoeuvred by the Navy into firmly endorsing the carriers. Meanwhile, with resulting jobs fears rife in Scotland and elsewhere, there's the chance that Labour will be forced to do something to make the ships safer before the election.

We here on the Reg defence desk can understand the Army's objection to the carriers - or rather, their feeling that they should be last in the queue for cuts - but personally we believe they're wrong on this one. We'd argue that, unlike many other ongoing, horrifically overbudget defence projects, carriers are actually useful, to the Army as well as the RN.

To start with, a properly-equipped carrier is far the best way to fight a dangerous well-equipped enemy at sea. AWACS planes and modern fighters are the best card to play against sea-skimming shipkiller missiles and (better) most of the things which launch them. Proper AWACS also trumps diesel-electric submarines, keeping them submerged. This effectively pins them to the map and denies them even the ability to communicate. Sure, a naval anti-air commander would rather have super-duper missile destroyers too - and probably the moon on a stick while we're at it - but you can't always have everything you want.

Still, unlike many things which are only really useful against well-equipped enemies whom we'll probably never really fight, carriers are also good for everyday wars. They provide control of the skies and airstrike support without any need for a vast airbase ashore somewhere in the region: a base with a vast perimeter to guard, easily struck by even the cheapest terrorist-style weapons and dependent on expensive, vulnerable overland supply convoys.

The Army, in our opinion - and sure, it's only one man's opinion - would do well to remember their history. If we'd had proper carriers in the Falklands, there'd be a lot of Welsh Guardsmen still alive and well who today are long dead or still suffering from their injuries (hit in the bombing of the Sir Galahad). There would have been a lot more helicopters and other vital resources to hand in the fighting ashore, too, as the Atlantic Conveyor wouldn't have been sunk.

A fair number of British soldiers have been killed in enemy air attacks in the post World War Two era, in fact. And one might recall that every time a British fighter has shot down an enemy plane during that period, that fighter took off from a carrier to do so.

History shows that carriers are useful for the real wars which actually happen, as well as for the possible-perhaps wars for which one may or may not need to prepare. That's where carriers differ from things like Nimrod MRA4, Eurofighter/Typhoon Tranche 3, Type 45 and all the rest of them.

So, being friends to Her Majesty's fighting forces, we're hoping that the Queen Elizabeth ships survive. A tiny little extra factor in their favour would be presented by the existence of working, effective EMALS tech in America, so we're also hoping things go well for General Atomics on the just-announced deal. ®

*They can lift off vertically, but not with any useful amount of fuel and payload aboard - the vertical landing after a mission is only possible because fuel has been burned and weapons dropped. Vertical takeoffs are normally just for displays.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.